Yesterday, during his speech to the American Medical Association (AMA), President Obama seemed to take his gloves off when it came to rebuking what opponents of his proposed health care overhaul plan were saying. He said,
"When you hear the naysayers claim that I'm trying to bring about government-run health care, know this: They are not telling the truth."
"[Lobbyists and special interest groups will use] fear tactics to paint any effort to achieve reform as an attempt to socialize medicine."
The President's objective during his speech was to influence members of the AMA to support his goal in providing public-option health care that is both high in quality and affordable to all. As a result, he hopes to drastically lower the number of uninsured American's who cannot afford health care. He said,
"If we do not fix our health care system, America may go the way of GM — paying more, getting less, and going broke."
This change the President seeks will not come without a price. The President made it clear that in order to provide health care to the roughly 50 million Americans who have no insurance; it would cost about $1 trillion over the next 10 years.
Where is this money going to come from? Well, the President has proposed to cut federal payments to hospitals by about $200 billion for starters. He has also suggested cutting $313 billion from Medicare and Medicaid over the next 10 years. All of that has been mentioned before, which still leaves a $487 billion gap if his goal is to reach $1 trillion. That is when the President finally announced that he is proposing $635 billion in tax increases and spending cuts in the health care system as what he refers to as a, "down payment" for his plan. Overall that brings the total to about $1.15 trillion.
So what was AMA's response to the President's speech? Nancy Nielsen, AMA’s former president as of yesterday, had this to say,
"Like the president, the American Medical Association is committed to covering all Americans."
J. James Rohack, the AMA's new president, had this to say,
Both the president and the AMA share the goal of all Americans having affordable health coverage and to not have the emergency room be the access point for health care. The AMA is also excited about the president’s emphasis on prevention.
Whether or not that is overall position of the AMA remains unclear and not without critcism. For decades, critics of the AMA, like Jeffrey Lionel Berlant who wrote Profession and Monopoly have been critical of the AMA's attitude towards providing high quality health care to all American's. The fact of the matter is that the AMA is a union (one of the largest in the United States for that matter). Like all unions, the AMA is looking out for its members, which are doctors/physicians and medical students.
When the Social Security Act of 1965 (Medicare) was passed by Congress and made law, the AMA was completely against it. Why? Because Medicare is a government sponsored health care program provided for American's 65 years and older. Forty plus years later, the same can be said for the AMA's position on publicly-funded health care for all American's, because of concerns physicians have had over the financial implications of such plans and the worries that a prominent government role in coordinating medical financing would inappropriately interfere with the doctor-patient relationship.
However, Mr. Rohack claims that the AMA is,
...committed to trying to reform the system.
Perhaps the AMA is committed to reforming the health care system. Perhaps, like the President, they do want all American's to be covered. And why not? That's only more money in their pockets. The more patients they take care of, the more doctor fees and expenses there are. Nevertheless, neither Nielsen nor Rohack verbally backed the President's proposed health care overhaul plan. So, although the President spoke with great admiration for the AMA and hoped to gain their respect and support, it is unknown whether he was able to achieve any of that. Is their support needed though? Seeing that none of the AMA's members reside on the United States Senate, they don't have a vote in the matter. What they do have however, is powerful lobbyists in Washington. Some might say that is as powerful as a Senate vote.